Rami George Khouri, executive editor for the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star, discussed the promise and perils of communication between the Middle East and the West during a presentation at the University of Central Florida.
Khouri spoke to an audience of nearly 100 Thursday, Dec. 2. His presentation was part of the UCF Global Perspectives Office’s yearlong Global Peace and Security program.
Khouri also pens a column titled “A View from the Arab World” for the The Daily Star, the largest English-language newspaper in the Middle East. In addition, he serves as director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.
During his talk, Khouri addressed the importance of understanding the history between the Middle East and the West. He noted that what is going on today is anchored in historical traditions.
Promise lies in cross-cultural communication, because it is the driving force behind human advancements, he said. According to Khouri, everyone benefits from good relations with the Middle East.
“When people interact, they learn, grow, prosper, become more creative, and generate wealth, stability and security,” he said. “Most importantly, they share human dignity in all of its dimensions.”
Unfortunately, the perils are equally as numerous and striking, Khouri said, noting that the Middle East and the West have a long tradition of invasions, wars, tensions, fears and resentment.
Often, nations in the Middle East also clash with each other. The four key players in the region — Arabs, Iranians, Turks and Israelis — have different languages, governmental systems, cultures and traditions. Right now, they’re all interacting in a confrontational way, Khouri said.
However, Khouri said there are ways to expand the promise and minimize the peril. He said we must try to understand the baggage that ancient legacies bring to contemporary conflicts. That also applies to the region’s relationship with the West, he said.
It is also important to separate values from policies. Khouri said people in the Middle East and in the West have similar values of justice, democracy and accountability, and that the biggest disagreements are about policy. The policies of government can cause hostility because when they change, people’s opinions of each other often change, too, Khouri explained.
“When you listen carefully to the United States and Middle Easterners, they want justice, democracy and to live peacefully with each other.”
Sponsors of Khouri’s presentation included the UCF Global Perspectives Office, UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship program, Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, UCF Political Science Department, UCF Nicholson School of Communication, UCF Terrorism Studies Program, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, UCF International Services Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.